Professional signature gatherers have a new job this week: Get a measure on the ballot that would raise the hotel tax to fund a Convention Center expansion and more services for homeless people. Local business and labor leaders hammered out a deal on the measure that the mayor said is the most important decisions voters will make this year.

Now, we are learning more about one of the biggest parts of that deal. The initiative has a new definition of the Convention Center that enables supporters of expanding it to pursue an option they’ve long resisted – and another approach they had previously never considered, writes our Lisa Halverstadt.

The initiative allows them to build anything as long as it’s connected to the Convention Center. And while the first thought many of us had was about a new building across Harbor Drive with some kind of skybridge, they’re also talking about expanding the building up to or on top of Harbor Drive.

Halverstadt also has news: The hotel workers union has signed an agreement with the developer of a hotel behind the Convention Center pledging to not support any expansion of the facility that involves taking their land. That land is the Fifth Avenue Landing, behind the Convention Center and crucial to expanding it in all the previous designs of a contiguous expansion.

Here’s a reminder of what the Fifth Avenue Landing battle is all about.

Politics Report: What the Mayor Didn’t Say

With managing editor Sara Libby out on leave for a while, we’ve replaced her Sunday column with the weekly Politics Report.

This week, our Scott Lewis runs down what the mayor didn’t say in his big speech, news on the signature gathering front and a review of the Darrell Issa news.

In El Cajon, a Stunning Crackdown on Feeding the Homeless

“A homeless rights advocacy group plans to take legal action against the City of El Cajon after at least a dozen people were arrested Sunday for feeding the homeless,” the U-T reports. The story was all over the news yesterday, here’s KPBS. A 14-year-old was among those arrested.

“Arrested” is a strong word. The police handed out citations.

A group called Break the Ban dared to feed the homeless in a city park in violation of a newly approved city law that “banned the distribution of food on city-owned property. City officials said the ordinance was a response to the deadly hepatitis A outbreak,” reported Times of S.D.

A councilman told the U-T that the goal was to improve public health by limit food distribution in potentially unsafe places.

Sports Roundup: Just How Bad Are We, Really?

The U.S. has to have a Worst Sports City, but it seems like it should be one that’s been around a zillion years with little sports success to boast of. You know, some place like Buffalo or Cleveland.

Never mind all that, says a sports writer for the Associated Press. He’s says our fair town, a relative newcomer to the national scene, deserves the honor of Worst Sports City. After all, we boast zero major pro sports championships (sorry, Sockers, you don’t count) and a college team that’s never gone past the Sweet 16. It doesn’t help that Wilt Chamberlain had a listless stint as coach of the San Diego Conquistadors basketball team in 1973: “The Stilt showed so little interest in a coaching-only role that he once skipped a game in favor of an autograph session.”

“Of course, that city’s long-suffering fans do get to live in San Diego,” says the sports writer. “So they’ve got that going for ’em.”

Um… Yay?

• Prominent local news and sports personality C.S. Keys, a veteran of San Diego radio and TV, died on Saturday. There were no immediate details about the cause of death. He was 54.

• “The soccer explosion is on the verge of mattering,” writes U-T sports columnist Kevin Acee in wording that doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in a soccer-happy future. Nonetheless, he thinks a soccer stadium belongs in traffic-choked Mission Valley.

• The U-T tried to figure out how the departure of the Chargers is affecting the city budget. It’s hard to say, but some things are clear, like the fact that the city city is still paying off tens of millions for stadium renovation costs and the Chargers training facility.

• A few weeks ago, we reported on how the economy as a whole seems fine but businesses like sports apparel stores are suffering now that the Bolts have bolted. The U-T has now published its own story about the impact, and it finds that hotels overall did better in the Chargers-free 2017 than in 2016 when the team was here. But some bars have faced big drop-offs, and hotels are missing their game-day guests.

• “San Diego without the Chargers is still San Diego,” a U-T headline declares. Good to know we’re not Topeka!

Remembering a Shooting Star of Calif. Politics

Once upon a time California had a photogenic young Democratic congressman-turned-senator who appeared ready to set the world on fire. He was talked about as a possible vice presidential candidate when he was barely old enough to run for the job, and Robert Redford starred in a movie based on his rise to power. Then it all fell apart as progressives poked at his record and an extremely unlikely and obscure Republican beat him at the ballot box.

This senator’s name was John V. Tunney, and he died Friday at the age of 83. The L.A. Times has an obituary about this remarkable political figure in state politics.

Quick News Hits: Sign of the Non-Times

• KPBS explores health risks in the Imperial Valley, where pollution linked to the decaying Salton Sea is linked to the state’s highest asthma rates.

• The Observatory performance venue in North Park, home to concerts by a wide variety of artists, has been shut down because of what the city calls “building safety and occupancy violations as well as the lack of required permits to operate as a nightclub and bar.” (KGTV)

• The Children’s Zoo at San Diego Zoo is getting a $69 million facelift complete with “with a treehouse, supersized beehive, meandering streams and suspension bridges,” the U-T reports.

Fun fact: The cover of “Pet Sounds,” one of the most famous albums of the 1960s, features the Beach Boys with furry friends at the Children’s Zoo.

• A few nights ago, I spotted an MTD bus going through Hillcrest with the sign above the driver alternating between its route and “GO PADRES!”

Um, the Friars aren’t playing at the moment. And remember what happened when everyone ran around saying “Go Chargers!”? They did! So check yourself, MTD, before you wreck yourself.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. He is also immediate past president of the 1,200-member American Society of Journalists and Authors ( Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

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